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Monotropic Split

Monotropic split refers to a very specific type of attentional trauma experienced by monotropic people who are regularly exceeding their attentional resources (Adkin, 2022) in an effort to meet the demands of living in a world designed for non-monotropic (polytropic) people. It inevitably leads to burnout.

Creating Autistic Suffering: The AuDHD Burnout to Psychosis Cycle- A deeper look – Emergent Divergence

So, what happens when a monotropic mind is forced to live in a polytropic way?

A monotropic individual focuses more detailed attention over fewer attention streams than a polytropic (non-Autistic) individual. When they are forced into environments where they must perform like a polytropic person, the amount of attention to detail they apply to multiple attention streams doesn’t decrease, all that happens is the monotropic mind experiences trauma by being pushed into trying to give more attention than any individual can cognitively give.

I call this monotropic split. The monotropic mind is having to split its attention and give more mental energy and attention than it has available to be able to withstand the environment it is in and remain safe.

When we think of an Autistic person experiencing overwhelm, we are thinking of a monotropic mind taking on more than it can process and creating meltdown or shutdown. Therefore, experiencing monotropic split is the cause of meltdown or shutdown.

When we think of an Autistic person who masks, “copes” and “gets by” which eventually leads to burnout or mental health crisis, we are again thinking of a monotropic mind being forced to perform in a way that traumatises its processing capabilities. This is monotropic split causing trauma, burnout, or mental health crisis. 

Guest Post: What is monotropic split? – Emergent Divergence
Creating Autistic Suffering: What is Atypical Burnout? – Emergent Divergence

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